What Kind Of Follow-Up Care Is Needed After Treatment of Melanoma?

People treated for melanoma should see the doctor for regular checkups because they have a high risk of getting melanoma again. They may develop new melanomas or the old melanoma might recur in the original site or in new places in the body. The risk of recurrence is higher for people with thick melanomas or melanomas that spread to other areas of the body.

Regular follow-up care increases the chances that new melanomas will be found in an early and potentially more curable stage. Follow-up visits include:

  • Thorough review of systems and general examination
  • Thorough examination of the skin
  • Possible blood tests and x-rays
  • Possible scans of the bones, liver, lungs, and brain

Nice To Know:

Q. How often should I return to the doctor for follow-up care after treatment for melanoma?

A. That depends on the stage of your melanoma and a lot of other individual factors. Doctors usually ask patients to return for a complete checkup every three months for the first two years after treatment. Each visit will probably include a complete skin examination, and a check for enlarged lymph nodes. Doctors may order a chest x-ray and scans of the lungs, brain, and other organs depending on symptoms.

Q. My wife was treated for melanoma. Thedermatologist said it was so small and thin that the entire tumor was removed with the excisional biopsy. He thinks that no other tests or treatment are needed. Yet I’ve heard that melanoma is very dangerous because it spreads. Should my wife have more tests?

A. Melanoma detected in an early stage often can be cured with the excisional biopsy-assuming a margin of normal surrounding tissue was removed (e.g. 5 mm of an in-situ melanoma) consonant with national guidelines. The excisional biopsy removes all the cancer cells before the melanoma has had a chance to spread to other organs. If your wife had Stage I melanoma, the doctor seems to be following national guidelines on melanoma care. These guidelines state that extra tests or treatment are not needed for very early melanoma.


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